Hurricane Bertha was the second named storm, first hurricane, and first major hurricane of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season. Bertha was the earliest forming Cape Verde hurricane on record, forming on July 3 in the far eastern Atlantic Ocean near the Cape Verde Islands. Bertha became an early-season Category 3 hurricane before striking Bermuda as a tropical storm. Bertha lasted a total of 17 days, making it the longest-lasting Atlantic hurricane in the month of July. In addition, Bertha was the longest-lasting Atlantic storm since Ivan in 2004.
Bertha caused only minimal damage, but caused three fatalities, all direct.
|Formation||July 3, 2008|
|Dissipation||July 20, 2008|
|Highest winds||130 mph|
|Lowest pressure||952 mbar|
|Areas affected||Cape Verde Islands, East Coast of the United States, Bermuda, Iceland|
|Part of the||2008 Atlantic hurricane season|
Bertha developed from a well-defined tropical wave that exited the coast of Africa on July 1. Before the wave moved into the Atlantic, it already had a closed surface circulation and an associated surface low. Located within an environment of light vertical shear and marginal water temperatures, the wave slowly organized, becoming a tropical depression by 0600 UTC July 3 while located about 220 miles south-southeast of the Cape Verde Islands. Just six hours later, the depression became a tropical storm as it passed south of the Cape Verde Islands. Over the following few days, Bertha changed little in organization as it moved west-northwest across the cool waters of the eastern Atlantic Ocean. However, by July 6, Bertha began traversing warmer waters, and by early on July 7 Bertha had become a hurricane while located about 750 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands. Over the next few days, Bertha fluctuated in intensity, mainly due to varying changes throughout the atmosphere. On July 7, as the hurricane headed towards a weakness in the subtropical ridge, Bertha underwent rapid intensification, reaching Category 3 status at 2100 UTC July 7, its winds increasing 50 mph within 15 hours. On July 8, Bertha encountered strong upper-level winds, which caused a period of rapid weakening, with the maximum sustained winds decreasing markedly, as much as 45 mph during the 24-hour period ending at 0600 UTC July 9. Later that day, however, the shear relaxed. Consequently, Bertha quickly reintensified, with winds increasing from 75 mph to 105 mph during an 18-hour period beginning at 0600 UTC July 9. By July 10, a rainband within the hurricane began to wrap around the circulation center, which formed a second eyewall. As Bertha continued northward, the inner eyewall collapsed by July 12. The eyewall replacement cycle, along with slightly cooler waters, resulted in a gradual weakening trend, and Bertha weakened to a tropical storm early on July 13. At this point, Bertha moved into an area with weak steering currents, and the storm slowed on July 12 and became nearly stationary on July 13 near Bermuda.
On July 14, however, Bertha resumed its previous northward movement, bringing tropical storm force winds to Bermuda while passing just 40 miles to the east. On July 16 and 17, Bertha turned southeastward while it curved cyclonically around a deep-layer low pressure system over the central Atlantic Ocean. On July 18, Bertha accelerated northeastward ahead of an approaching upper-level trough that was moving across the East Coast of the United States. During this period, Bertha regained hurricane status. On July 19, the cyclone passed around 400 miles southeast of Cape Race, Newfoundland. On July 20, Bertha became extratropical over the northern Atlantic Ocean. Bertha's extratropical remnants continued racing northeastward towards Iceland, where they merged with a stronger extratropical cyclone on July 21.
On July 7, as Bertha neared, residents on Bermuda began purchasing lamps, tarpaulins, and flaslights due to the threat of power outages. In the sudden rush for emergency supplies, some stores ran out of batteries. Bermuda Public Safety Minister Senator David Burch called a meeting of the island's Emergency Measures Organization on the evening of July 9. In addition, he urged residents to prepare emergency supply kits. On July 10, the Department of Parks posted high surf warnings along the south-facing beaches as Bertha produced high waves. On July 11, the Bermuda Weather Service issued a Tropical Storm Watch for the island, which, 24 hours later, was upgraded to a Tropical Storm Warning. On July 13, the beaches on the island were barricaded. The beaches were also closed to swimming and watersports.
On July 14, all flights in and out of Bermuda were canceled as Bertha approached. JetBlue and Delta Airlines canceled their flights while American Airlines flew its Miami and New York flights a day early. British Airways postponed its flight until the afternoon, hoping that the cyclone would have passed by the time its plane arrived. In addition, ferry services to St. George were closed for the whole day on July 14, and all routes outside Hamilton Harbour were canceled after their morning runs.
Even as Bertha was moving east of the island, it was predicted that it could reintensify to a hurricane. Thus, the government of Bermuda issued a Hurricane Watch.
Cape Verde Islands
Bertha produced some rainfall across portions of the Cape Verde Islands, although no damage or fatalities occurred in the islands.
Bertha, although remaining well away from the United States mainland, produced rip currents and high waves along the east coast. The rough seas caused three deaths along the coast of New Jersey. On July 12, a 51 year old man died after suddenly losing consciousness during his rescue. On July 13, 3 men swam out to a buoy located around 300 feet from the shore of Wildwood Beach, where treacherous sea conditions prevailed and overtook them. One of the swimmers was found unconscious and pronounced dead, the second was never found and was presumed dead, and the third was rescued. A total of 57 people had to be rescued along the coast of New Jersey to treacherous sea conditions caused by distant Bertha.
The rip currents also caused 55 injuries along the beaches of Delaware, with the injuries ranging from minor scrapes to broken bones. Four people were also injured in North Carolina, one person of which nearly drowned when he aspirated water shortly before a lifeguard rescued him. A total of at least 60 people had to be rescued along the East Coast of the United States over a two day span due to Bertha.
Bertha produced heavy rainfall across the island, peaking at 4.77 inches, becoming one of wettest tropical cyclones on record for the island. The heavy rains led to some flooding, and the strong winds downed some tree limbs across the island. Strong winds also downed power lines, causing scattered power outages. Despite this, the Bermuda Electric Light Company were reattaching the power cables immediately, even during the height of the storm.
Bertha is the easternmost forming pre-August tropical storm in the Atlantic basin, forming at only 24.7°W. Bertha is also the easternmost forming pre-August hurricane in the basin, attaining that strength at 50.2°W. Finally, Bertha is the easternmost developing pre-August major hurricane in the basin, reaching that at 52.1°W. Bertha is also the sixth strongest July hurricane, behind only Dennis and Emily in 2005. Bertha is also the longest lived pre-August tropical cyclone in the Atlantic, lasting a total of 17 days. Bertha is also the longest-lasting Atlantic system since Ivan in 2004.
Lack of Retirement
Because of the minimal damage, the name Bertha was not retired in the Spring of 2009 by the World Meteorological Organization. It is on the list of names to be used for the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season.